To what extent and why were Bulgarian Jews spared during the Second World War?

To what extent and why were Bulgarian Jews spared during the Second World War?


In July 2000, a letter to the Israeli government signed by several prominent Bulgarians (including the Vice-Chairman of the Parliament Academic Blagovest Sendov) denounced the credit of King Boris III, his wife Giovanna and Vice-Chairman Dimitar Peshev for the salvation of Bulgarian Jews during the Second World War and led to the removal of their commemorative plates from the Bulgarian People’s Forest in Israel. This in turn led to heated debates in the Bulgarian Parliament[i] that culminated in the dismissal of Vice-Chairman Sendov but hardly resolved the question about the factors and motives that determined the fate of Jewish population in Bulgaria some sixty years ago.

The facts that we know with certainty give an answer about the extent to which Bulgarian Jews were spared during the Second World War. Of the 51,000 Jews who lived on the territory of Bulgaria as determined by the 1919 Neuilly Treaty, none was deported to concentration camps and, indeed, none died a violent death[ii] between 1941 and 1944, the period of Bulgarian involvement in the war on the side of the Axis. At the same time, the enactment of new laws subjected the Jewish population to restrictions and humiliations similar to those in the other countries allied to Germany; the expulsion of 20,000 Jews from the capital Sofia to the rural interior marked their peak. Some 11,000 people, the major part of the Hebrew population in the Bulgarian-occupied territories of Macedonia and Thrace, were deported and met their end in Treblinka.

The reasons and forces behind this double treatment are difficult to differentiate from one another. For all gruesome aspects of the treatment we can blame the opportunistic governmental policies based on the same national interest of recovering territories that in the first place attracted Bulgaria to the Tripartite Act; consequently, many of these policies were determined by external German pressure. (It is worth noting that, unlike other countries, anti-Semitism never played a significant role in political decisions or people’s general attitude in Bulgaria.[iii]) However, opportunism and interest also contributed to the salvation of Jews[iv], virtually allowing the prevalent sympathetic attitude to yield a result; without them, all humane efforts would have probably been futile. The actions of King Boris III, the Bulgarian government, single political figures and entire organisations, the Orthodox Church, various professional associations, Jewish and Zionist leaders in and outside the country, and the Bulgarian people in general created a unique situation the only clear feature of which seems to be the outcome.

Continue reading

Reflections of and on Reality in Terry Pratchett’s _Soul Music_

Reflections of and on Reality in Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music



Behold the Discworld. Watch the Waterfall on the Rim plunge into the bottomless abyss of the multiverse while the tiny sun slides above weird-shaped continents, bringing the day along. Note the eight-colour rainbows and the green-ice, ten-miles-high tower, in which the gods are playing their vicious games with mortal fates. See wizards perform magical rites and heroes succeed nine times out of ten against million-to-one chances. Do not miss the dragons and the druids, the valkyries and the vampires, the trolls and the tooth fairies…

Unmistakably, a fantasy setting. Yet another escape from reality to the realms of imagination, in other words.

…Yet, did you heed the four elephants that support this flat world on their backs? And, yes, it is a giant turtle’s shell they are standing on. Does not this remind you of a certain notion of our Earth?

You will be amazed by the abundance of references to our own reality once you start examining in detail this alleged fantasy creation. The reason for their frequent occurrence lies in the very rationale of the Discworld series: although it started as a parody of the fantasy genre, the series has eventually grown to encompass all literature, culture, our society and civilization, and ultimately the world we inhabit in virtually all its aspects. In the meantime the Discworld has developed a reality of its own, but this reality has never been an independent one; on the contrary, it has become ever more deeply rooted in the reality that we know. It is, therefore, meaningless to refer to the Discworld books as an escape from reality – and, indeed, why would the author attempt such an escape if the very same reality, viewed from an appropriate angle, provides an endless source of laugh-arousing material? For a truly satisfactory reading of Terry Pratchett’s novels, you’d rather need a deep awareness of the surrounding world; the better familiarity you have with the various aspects of human life and our civilization’s achievements (often in the ironical sense), the more you will enjoy the multitude of gags and jests throughout the text. Continue reading

The Role of Active Listening in Conflict Resolution

The Role of Active Listening in Conflict Resolution:
An Interpersonal Communication Perspective




The purpose of active listening in conflict resolution is to gain and demonstrate understanding of the other, which will serve as a basis for reaching joint decisions and ultimately resolving a conflict. In order to succeed in this, active listening has to address common problems in oral interpersonal communication. This essay examines the ways in which the techniques of clarification, paraphrasing, summarizing, reflection and digging deal with communication pitfalls. It also draws our attention to the underlying need for awareness of our listening shortcomings.



Even though active listening belongs as a concept to the field of interpersonal oral communication, it has turned into a prominent subject of studies only with the advent of conflict resolution. Conflict resolution has emerged as an area of general interest within the past thirty years, mainly as a consequence of the advancements in transport and technologies and the resulting opportunities for global political and economic interactions. Its rapid development has been fuelled by the growing awareness of the limitations of traditional negotiation (based on positional bargaining) and the search for more productive negotiating methods that will bring mutually satisfactory and long-lasting outcomes. Nowadays conflict resolution is applied across a wide range of situations, from ethnic conflicts on an international scale, such as the tension between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats in the wake of the 1995 war, to local disagreements, such as a clash between the management and the workers in a factory, to interpersonal conflicts, e.g. between roommates in a residence. The recognition of its effectiveness and versatility has drawn considerable attention to the techniques that constitute it. This essay examines active listening both as a technique of conflict resolution and in the light of the underlying interpersonal communication issues.


Active listening has been widely recognized as the most important tool of conflict mediation and negotiation.[i] The key role of active listening is justified by its purpose: to generate a profound understanding of the other’s concerns and motives, which will provide the basis for exploring mutually acceptable solutions and eventually resolving the conflict. In order to achieve such understanding, active listening has to address the common problems in oral communication; here we shall examine the ways in which the techniques of clarification, paraphrasing, summarizing, reflection and digging seek to overcome communication obstacles. In addition to gaining understanding, active listening serves to demonstrate that we understand the other and thus builds mutual trust, which can be as important as the understanding itself for reaching a satisfactory outcome. Finally, the effectiveness of listening depends on our awareness of the listening shortcomings we have; and with the increase of awareness we can overcome the inner limitations that shape our perception of the world.

Continue reading